“Action” is the most abstract of the PYP Essential Elements. We know it’s there, we know its important, we know its designed to encourage students to do good things… but we so often misinterpret it, forget about it and trivialize it.
Jane Goodall’s quote, below, puts it in the most simple terms. Students (and teachers) need to see how everything they do represents their “actions” and that reflection on what they do helps them to consider the difference – either good or bad – that their actions make. This could range from putting their shoes away when they get home to reaching for a book instead of an iPad to helping a friend with a problem to noticing a child beggar and mentioning it to a parent to… the list goes on.
Our problem, very often, is that we narrow down what “action” means so much that it has little or no value. Are we surprised, then, that so many of our students go through school believing it is a bake sale?
How do you guide your students towards a sophisticated understanding of Action?
We are renovating the outdoor space in our Early Explorers area. Because of a number of practical issues, the work is being done while we are at school.
This is obviously quite a disturbance, and also has an impact on the space that is available to the students for outside play.
This could be very annoying and could be a cause of stress to teachers… and therefore to students too.
However, all situations that come up around us can easily be opportunities to learn – if we allow them to be. We can choose to be unhappy about such things – like bad weather, powercuts, big events, things not working, disturbances, distractions, unforeseen circumstances etc… or we can choose to make them part of the learning. Very often, these opportunities lead to much powerful learning than we could ever have planned for!
This week, our Early Explorers teachers “lifted the curtain” on the construction work that is going on in their playground. Not only were the students fascinated by it, they were also invited to help out! So, suddenly you have a group of four-year-olds rendering a real building, using real tools and real materials. The man supervising the construction was so excited about this that he is going to continue to look for simple, safe ways that the students can be a part of the construction work.”They are the next generation of adults” he said, clearly imagining a whole group of young architects or builders in the next twenty years!
Naturally, the experience has provoked all sorts of play, art and questions in the Early Explorers classrooms… and teachers are planning many ways to take them further.
So, next time there’s a thunderstorm… open the windows and see how your students react. Next time something breaks your routine or disrupts your usual plans… run with it. See what effect it has on the learning… a different type of learning than the one you had in mind! As you become more comfortable with this, perhaps… in the future… you might start actively seeking these opportunities.
Oh… and p.s… this doesn’t only apply to early years teachers.
This video represents a significant moment for its creator, Mimi. As a Grade 5 student, she has been showing tons of quiet potential all year… but this video symbolizes her emergence as a genuine go-getter, full of confidence, talent and modest precociousness.
She wrote the poem, sought out some advice on how to produce a video that wen with her message, learned how to do the green screen technique from Mr. Frank and then completed the project independently.
The video has wowed everyone in the school, within five minutes of sharing on Twitter it was used in an IB Diploma TOK lesson (see their responses to Mimi here) and it has been used as a provocation for the PYP Exhibition in several schools. When this happens with a student’s work, it is incredibly empowering for them.
Here are the words of the poem:
Trapped in Gold
It was dark
I was trapped
I was trapped in Gold
In this place of darkness
Where everyone seems to be
There was me
Finding a way out to be free
The human mindset not working properly
Greed,Selfishness is all I can see
Swiping and swiping my card constantly
Until I realized my card was trapped with me
Hard works pay seems to go so fast
When your life is on hold and it all seems so sad
The sensation of new things
Fills me up with joy
But inside I am upset and destroyed.
All this credit,loan and lending
The life we live is full of spending
It is a cycle that is unending
And we are all pretending.
They make us seem like fools
Sell us tools to make us feel good
Buy the new version to stay on trend
But it’s just another hole
For us to mend
Everything just clutter
But just with money in the gutter
It’s all just an illusion
Nothing but a trick
After you spend, makes you feel sick
There is full of gluttony
It is ruining your life
Can’t you see?
Our lives are a mess
I have to confess
But it’s time to speak up
Don’t let our world corrupt
They suck you in with weird solutions
And all that is left
Are minds with confusion
There used to be excitement
And laughter in the park
But now its all dark,no footstep,no mark
Holes in my shoes
Swinging on the swings as high as I can
It felt like I was a kid superman!
How can you be a good dad?
When your child is entertained by an iPad
So next time
Spend your money wisely
Don’t be a fool
You’re trapped in Gold
This podcast raises some interesting questions about the PYP Exhibition, but also about teaching in general. In particular, the discussion focuses on the problem of making sure that we spend time with all of our students. If we are all honest, we must admit that we have one or two students each year who tend to “fly under the radar”.
What do we do about that?
The Grade 5 students at ISHCMC are currently artists. For their How we express ourselves unit, each students is working on two significant pieces of art – one optimistic and one pessimistic.
This video shows one student discussing her work, her techniques and her thought-processes. This student is utterly engaged by what she is doing and has a very deep understanding of why she is doing it.
By using very simple mindfulness practices and routines, you can start to develop genuine independence and positive habits with students. Giving them the skill to walk into a room, find a space, relax, slow down and begin to focus on what they will be doing – and why – puts them in control of themselves and their learning.
Taking this bit of time at the start makes everything that comes after it more effective, more student-centred and more indicative of who they really are as learners.
In this video, Chad’s class are in the middle of a creative – and messy project. He is hoping to see his students take complete control of everything they do and has seen the power of helping them find and create the right mood before each session.
I have started a new series of podcasts – you can listen to them and download them on Soundcloud. These podcasts will feature teachers talking about learning, inquiry and pedagogy and are designed to provoke thinking and stimulate ideas.
Use them however you wish.
Here is the first episode – featuring Grade 4 teachers, Claire Simms. Its a great one to start with as Claire is basically going through the inquiries her students were involved in at the time. To walk into a classroom and ask a teacher to explain their students’ inquiries is a real test of a school’s inquiry culture.